United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
Jeffrey S. Love John D. Vandenburg James E. Geringer
KLARQUIST SPARKMAN, LLP Howard L. Close J. Andrew Love
Kathleen S. Rose Patrick B. McAndrew Ronald L. Flack, Jr.
WRIGHT CLOSE & BARGER, LLP Luke Motley IV LAW OFFICES OF
LUKE MOTLEY IV PC Luke Motley IV LAW OFFICES OF LUKE MOTLEY
IV PC Attorneys for Plaintiffs Renée
Renée E. Rothauge Anna Marie Joyce MARKOWITZ HERBOLD
PC Michael J. Summersgill Jordan L. Hirsch WILMER CUTLER
PICKERING HALE & DORR LLP Todd C. Zubler WILMER CUTLER
PICKERING HALE & DORR LLP Arthur W. Coviello WILMER
CUTLER PICKERING HALE & DORR LLP Ryan J. McBrayer PERKINS
COIE, LLP Sarah J. Crooks PERKINS COIE, LLP Attorneys for
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNANDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Fereydun Tabaian and Ahmad Ashrafzadeh are the inventors and
owners of United States Patent No. 7, 027, 944 Patent
("the '944 Patent") which is titled
"Programmable Calibration Circuit for Power Supply
Current Sensing and Droop Loss Compensation," and which
issued on April 11, 2006. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7, 8, ECF 1,
ECF 1-1. In this action, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant
infringes the '944 Patent.
to the September 7, 2018 amended case schedule, ECF 83, the
parties filed claim construction briefs in April and May
2019. The briefing revealed that the parties agreed on two
terms but disputed the meaning of eight other terms. I
conducted a tutorial on June 19, 2019, and heard oral
argument on June 20, 2019. This Opinion & Order resolves
the eight claim construction disputes.
& DISPUTED CLAIMS INTRODUCTION
patent discloses a "circuit for regulating power."
'944 Patent, Abstract at 1, ECF 1-1.
full abstract recites:
A circuit for regulating power is disclosed. The present
invention provides circuits and methods for current sensing
variations, static droop settings, mismatched phase outputs,
and temperature variations in a multiphase power regulator.
The circuits may include a calibration controller that senses
and regulates both a current sensing circuit and the droop in
a power regulator over a range of temperatures thus
equalizing phase outputs. The present invention includes the
schematic organization and implementation of the circuit, the
circuit's calibration, its use, and implementation. This
invention advantageously provides circuits and methods to
properly power a processor or IC chip according to the unique
power specifications of the processor or chip.
of the '944 Patent, the only independent claim, contains
all of the disputed terms. With the disputed terms/phrases
italicized, it recites:
1. A circuit comprising: a regulator circuit
and a calibration control circuit, wherein said
calibration control circuit includes a controller,
an interface with nonvolatile memory, droop outputs,
sense outputs, load voltage input, and
temperature input; wherein
said nonvolatile memory stores calibration data;
said calibration control circuit interfaces with said
regulator circuit via said sense outputs, said droop outputs,
and said load voltage input;
said calibration control circuit interfaces with said
non-volatile memory to store calibration data;
said calibration control circuit interfaces with
said temperature input to receive temperature data; said
temperature data is used by said calibration control
circuit to adjust said sense outputs and said droop
outputs; and said calibration control circuit
interfaces with said temperature input and said load voltage
input to calibrate said calibration data stored in
said nonvolatile memory.
'944 Patent, 10:2-20 (emphases added).
addition to these disputed terms, the parties have agreed on
the meaning of two additional terms appearing in Claim 1: (1)
"nonvolatile memory": "memory that does not
lose data when power to the memory is removed"; and (2)
"temperature input": "input to the calibration
control circuit that provides temperature data." Jt.
Claims Const. Chart, Ex. A, ECF 115-1.
infringement analysis involves two steps. Duncan Parking
Techs., Inc. v. IPS Grp., Inc., 914 F.3d 1347, 1360
(Fed. Cir. 2019). First, the court construes the asserted
patent claims. Id. (citing Markman v. Westview
Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 976 (Fed. Cir. 1995)
(en banc)). Second, the factfinder determines
whether the accused product or method infringes the asserted
claim as construed. Id. (citing Markman, 52
F.3d at 976). The first step, claim construction, is a matter
of law "exclusively within the province of the
court." Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc.,
517 U.S. 370, 372 (1996). "It is a bedrock principle of
patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention
to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude."
Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed.
Cir. 2005) (en banc) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Patent claims must precisely define the relevant
invention to put both the public and competitors on notice of
the claimed invention. Id.
construe a patent claim, courts first look to the language of
the claims in the patent itself, the description in the
patent's specification, and the patent's prosecution
history, all of which constitute a record "on which the
public is entitled to rely." Vitronics Corp. v.
Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1996);
Dow Chem. Co. v. Sumitomo Chem. Co., 257 F.3d 1364,
1372 (Fed. Cir. 2001). The court considers other extrinsic
evidence only if this intrinsic evidence is insufficient to
resolve the ambiguity of a term. Vitronics, 90 F.3d
actual words of the claim are the controlling focus."
Digital Biometrics, Inc. v. Identix, Inc., 149 F.3d
1335, 1344 (Fed. Cir. 1998). "[T]he words of the claims
are generally given their ordinary and customary
meaning." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312 (internal
quotation marks omitted). "[T]he ordinary and customary
meaning of a claim term is the meaning that the term would
have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at
the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing
date of the patent application." Id. at 1313.
There is a "heavy presumption" that a claim term
carries its ordinary and customary meaning, and a party
seeking to convince a court that a term has some other
meaning "must, at the very least," point to
statements in the written description that "affect the
patent's scope." Johnson Worldwide Assocs., Inc.
v. Zebco Corp., 175 F.3d 985, 989 (Fed. Cir. 1999)
(internal quotation marks omitted). This may be accomplished
when: (1) "a different meaning [is] clearly and
deliberately set forth in the intrinsic materials" of
the patent; or (2) the use of "the ordinary and
accustomed meaning of a disputed term would deprive the claim
of clarity[.]" K-2 Corp. v. Salomon S.A., 191
F.3d 1356, 1363 (Fed. Cir. 1999). In making this assessment,
the court should use common sense and "the understanding
of those of ordinary skill in the art" of the patent at
issue, unless the patent history supplies another meaning.
Id. at 1365.
the plain language of the claims, the patent specification is
always highly relevant and often dispositive to the proper
construction. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582 (explaining
that the specification is "the single best guide to the
meaning of a disputed term"). The purpose of the patent
specification is to teach and enable those skilled in the art
to make and use the invention, along with the best method for
doing so. Cyber Acoustics, LLC v. Belkin Int'l.,
Inc., No. 3:13-cv-01144-SI, 2014 WL 1225198, at *2 (D.
Or. Mar. 24, 2014) (citing Phillips, 415 F.3d at
1323). The inventor can use the specification to describe the
invention in a number of ways, such as describing different
"embodiments" of the invention and by assigning
particular meanings to specific claim language.
Metabolite Labs., Inc. v. Lab. Corp. of Am.
Holdings, 370 F.3d 1354, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2004);
Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316. The embodiments serve as
illustrative examples of the invention claimed.
Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323 ("One of the best
ways to teach a person of ordinary skill in the art how to
make and use the invention is to provide an example of how to
practice the invention in a particular case."). The
inventor can also clarify that he or she intends the claim
language to carry a specific meaning different from its
ordinary one. Id. In these cases, "the
inventor's lexicography governs." Id. at
the prosecution history, which contains the record of the
proceedings before the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO),
Vitronics, 90 F.3d. at 1582-83, may be useful where
it "provides evidence of how the PTO and the inventor
understood the patent." Phillips, 415 F.3d at
1317. However, this evidence is less valuable because it
represents an "ongoing negotiation" between the
inventor and the PTO. Id. The final result of that
negotiation, the patent itself, provides better evidence of
the claim's intended meanings at the time the patent
end, the "court's ultimate goal is to construe the
disputed terms in a manner consistent with the way the
inventor defined them and a person of ordinary skill in the
art would understand them." j2 Global Commc'ns
Inc. v. Captaris Inc., No. CV 09-04150 DDP (AJWx), 2011
WL 837923, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2011). "The
construction that stays true to the claim language and most
naturally aligns with the patent's description of the
invention will be, in the end, the correct
construction." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1316
(internal quotation marks omitted).
disputed claim terms and phrases are: (1) "droop
outputs"; (2) "sense outputs"; (3)
"calibration data"; (4) "calibration control
circuit"; (5) "load voltage input"; (6)
"temperature data is used by said calibration control
circuit to adjust said sense outputs and said droop
outputs"; (7) "said calibration control circuit
interfaces with said nonvolatile memory to store calibration
data"; and (8) "said calibration control circuit
interfaces with said regulator circuit via said sense
outputs, said droop outputs, and said load voltage
input." I. "Droop Outputs" The first disputed
term is "droop outputs" as recited in Claim 1's
introductory paragraph and again in Elements 2 and 5.
Plaintiffs' proposed construction is "outputs of the
calibration control circuit used to adjust voltage in
circuitry, in a system that includes a droop function that
can lower output voltage based on output current."
proposed construction is "outputs of the calibration
control circuit used to adjust the droop function (i.e.
the function that automatically lowers the output voltage
based on the output current)." The italicized
portions are disputed. The gist of the dispute is that
Plaintiffs' proposal does not limit "droop
outputs" to adjusting droop function. Plaintiffs offer a
broader definition by expanding "droop outputs" to
adjusting voltage generally in a system that includes a droop
function. Defendant's proposal confines the adjustment
made by the droop output to the droop function. I agree with
Defendant because its proposed construction is supported by
the claim language and the specification, and is consistent
with the patent's purpose.
introductory paragraph of Claim 1 discloses a regulator
circuit and a calibration control circuit (CCC). '944
Patent, 10:2-3. But, after this introductory language, Claim
1 contains only one additional reference to the regulator
circuit. That reference is in Element 2 where the claim
discloses that the CCC "interfaces with said regulator
circuit via said sense outputs, said droop outputs, and said
load voltage input." Id., 10:8-10. Although
this element refers to the regulator circuit, the focus is on
the action of the CCC. Thus, Claim 1 addresses the components
and function of the CCC.
first of the three references to "droop outputs" in
Claim 1 is in the introductory paragraph which lists the
components of the CCC. Id.; 10:5. The second is in
Element 2 as noted in the previous paragraph where the claim
recites that the CCC interfaces with the regulator circuit
via droop outputs. Id.; 10:8-10. The third is in
Element 5 which provides that the CCC uses temperature data
to adjust the sense and droop outputs. Id.;
10:15-17. Claim 1's plain language recites (1) a circuit
that includes a CCC which has droop outputs as one of several
components; (2) the CCC uses temperature data to adjust the
droop outputs; and (3) the CCC then uses the droop outputs to
interface with the regulator circuit.
note the absence of the phrase "droop function" in
Claim 1. According to Plaintiffs, such absence shows
"droop outputs" is not limited to "droop
function." They also argue that because their proposal
refers to "droop function" within a larger system
environment, they do not read "droop" out of the
term "droop output." Defendant argues that
Plaintiffs read "droop" out of "droop
outputs" because Plaintiffs' construction allows the
droop outputs to adjust voltage generally. Notwithstanding
that Plaintiffs' proposal includes the presence of a
system including a droop function, the crux of
Plaintiffs' proposed interpretation is that droop outputs
may adjust voltage generally.
claim language indicates that "droop outputs"
relate to "droop" in some fashion. The language of
Claim 1 shows that the CCC uses temperature data to adjust
the droop outputs which then interface with the regulator
circuit. By distinguishing "droop output" from
"sense output," and by not using a more generic
term of "output," Claim 1 indicates that a
"droop output" is related to "droop."
also point to the absence of an "error circuit," a
"droop amplifier, or "current sense circuit"
in Claim 1. These components are part of the circuitry shown
in Figure 1. Because the plain language of Claim 1 omits
these terms, Plaintiffs argue that "droop output"
is not limited to droop function or to what is shown in
are correct that Claim 1 does not recite an error circuit, a
droop amplifier, or a current sense circuit. But, it does
recite that the CCC interfaces with the regulator circuit via
the droop outputs which the CCC adjusts based on temperature
data. Claim 1 discloses the components of the CCC. The
parties, however, dispute what these components ultimately
do. In order to resolve the dispute over the meaning
attributable to a component such as "droop
outputs," I must determine the function of the component
as disclosed in the patent. That function is gleaned from the
other parts of the patent including the specification, the
claims, and the purpose. Thus, while the words of Claim 1 do
not themselves refer to the error circuit, the droop
amplifier, or the current sense circuit, Claim 1 makes clear
that the CCC uses the droop outputs to provide information
relevant to droop to the regulator circuit. Because, as
explained below, the regulator circuit includes circuits in
which droop outputs relate to droop function, Defendant's
proposed construction finds more support in the plain
language of Claim 1 than Plaintiffs' proposal.
specification explains that the CCC may use the droop outputs
to adjust the droop amplifier. Id., 7:23-25. The
droop amplifier "drives the error circuit."
Id., 7:17-18; see also id., 8:64-67
("This adjustable droop amplifier 180
may be used to adjust the droop loss across the current sense
circuit 140. The adjustment of the droop
amplifier 180 may be used to drive an error
circuit."). Droop function "is used in a power
supply to automatically lower the output voltage based on the
output current." Id., 1:36-38. Plaintiffs
themselves acknowledge that "the function of
automatically lowering the output voltage based on the output
current is implemented by the adjustable droop amplifier 180
in conjunction with [the] error circuit." Pls.' Op.
Brief 7-8, ECF 143 (citing '944 Patent, 9:7-9). These
specification descriptions support Defendant's contention
that the droop outputs adjust the droop amplifier which in
turn drives the error circuit to implement the droop function
and therefore, the droop outputs are outputs of the CCC that
adjust the droop function.
1 of the '944 Patent "is a schematic of one
embodiment of the present invention showing two phases of a
multiphase regulator connected with a calibration control
circuit 190[.]" '944 Patent,
8:34-36. Figure 1 reveals the various connections between the
CCC and the regulator circuit. Figure 1 clearly shows the CCC
providing input to the adjustable droop amplifier
180. It also clearly shows that the
adjustable droop amplifier provides input to the error
circuit 170 which provides input to the
error amplifier 175. The error amplifier
provides input to the pulse width modulator (PWM)
160. Id., Fig 1; see also
id., 9:7-9 ("The output of the error amplifier
175 drives one port of each pulse width
modulator 160 to compensate for the droop
loss."). The PWM then adjusts the output power.
E.g., id., 8:59-9-11.
2 is a more detailed schematic of the CCC. Id.,
9:23-24 (stating that the CCC in Figure 1 is shown in more
detail in Figure 2); see also id., 9:24-25 (Figure 2
"shows one embodiment of the calibration control
circuit"). There, the CCC is shown to have several
components, including the controller, the nonvolatile memory,
and digital to analog and analog to digital converters.
Id., Fig. 2. Figure 2 shows that the CCC
"controls the adjustments to the droop amplifier via the
droop output 550[.]" Id.,
9:25-27. The "droop output 550 from the
controller 500 in one embodiment interfaces
with the adjustable droop amplifier via digital to analog
converter with registered input 600 and
amplifier 640." Id., 9:37-40.
1 and 2 show that the CCC uses the droop outputs to control
adjustments to the droop amplifier. Together, the
specification and the figures show that the droop amplifier,
via the error circuit and then the PWM, adjusts the droop
function which is the function that automatically lowers the
output voltage based on the output current.
Plaintiffs acknowledge that the CCC uses the droop outputs to
make adjustments in a system that includes a droop function
which lowers output voltage based on output current, they
contend that the claim term is not limited to adjustments to
the droop function. Instead, Plaintiffs argue that
"droop outputs" is properly interpreted to allow
adjustments to voltage more generally in a system with a
droop function. In support, they rely heavily on the
following sentence which appears in the specification's
description of Figure 1: "Adjusting the droop amplifier
180 may be equivalent to adjusting the
reference voltage." Id.; 9:4-5. Plaintiffs
argue that this shows that the CCC uses droop outputs to
adjust voltage generally in the regulatory circuitry. They
contend that this description confirms that droop outputs
adjust voltage without necessarily adjusting droop function.
They assert that the phrase is a clear statement that
"droop output(s) may adjust an output voltage[.]"
Pls.' Resp. Br. 14, ECF 150.
disagree. Plaintiffs' interpretation of this single
sentence is taken out of context. When the
specification's full description of Figure 1 is
considered, it is clear that the specification explains that
adjusting the droop amplifier causes the PWM, via the error
circuit, to set the voltage at a different level and
therefore, adjusting the droop amplifier to implement a droop
function effectively changes the level of voltage targeted by
the regulator. The entire passage is as follows:
The output of the adjustable sense amplifier
150 drives the current sense input of the
pulse width modulator (PWM) 160 to generate
the proper pulse width signal to the power output FET
130 to regulate the output power. The
adjustable sense amplifier 150 also drives
the shared summing input port to the adjustable droop
amplifier 180. This adjustable droop
amplifier 180 may be used to adjust the
droop loss across the current sense circuit
140. The adjustment of the droop amplifier
180 may be used to drive an error
circuit. The adjusted voltage driver circuit may be
compared against the reference voltage at the error amplifier
175 to generate the error voltage value for
the pulse width modulators 160.
Adjusting the droop amplifier 180 may be
equivalent to adjusting the reference voltage. The load
voltage 165 may be monitored via the
calibration control circuit 190.
The output of the error amplifier 175 drives
one port of each pulse width modulator 160
to compensate for the droop loss. The output of an individual
pulse width modulator 160 drives its
associated phase control set register 110 to
control the output drive FET 130.
'944 Patent, 8:59-9:11 (emphases added). The surrounding
language supports Defendant's construction which
effectively places the word "thus" at the beginning
of the sentence at line 4 of column 9 so that it reads:
"[Thus, ] [a]djusting the droop amplifier
180 may be equivalent to adjusting the
reference voltage." The only sensible conclusion from
reading the sentence in context is that the sentence is a
continuation of the preceding description and expresses the
concept of "in this or that manner or way," meaning
that adjusting the droop amplifier in the manner or way just
described in the preceding passage results in an adjustment
to the reference voltage. Because the "in this manner or
way" includes driving the error circuit which inputs to
the PWM to adjust the voltage, the sentence does not recite
that the droop outputs are used to adjust voltage generally
in the regulator circuitry.
background and purpose of the invention also support
Defendant's construction. The '944 Patent states that
a problem with multiphase voltage regulators is the mismatch
in the current between phases. Id., 1:19-23
("the load current is not always equally shared among
all the phases of multi-phase regulators causing inadequate
operation and excessive heat in the power devices of one or
more phases of a multi-phase power supply."). Thus,
current equalization among all phases is important.
Id., 1:23-25. While current sense circuits are used,
"resister elements" which measure the source
current for each phase of the power supply have a "high
degree of variation from one to another over changing
environmental conditions and over "production lot
variations." Id., 1:25-32. Using these elements
to sense current "causes a mismatch in the current
between phases" and as of the time the '944 Patent
issued, there were "no reasonable solutions to this
mismatch." Id., 1:34-35.
"droop function accuracy is directly related to the
current sensing accuracy." Id., 1:43-44.
"Historically, setting the droop accurately has also
been a major problem due to inadequacies in current sensing
and processor batch variations." Id., 1:53-55.
With fixed droop settings, which the patent indicates was the
norm at the time, "the power supply is unable to adapt
to the processor[']s power needs." Id.,
1:61-62. This leads to "inefficient and costly"
"processor waste" because "processors with
power specifications beyond what the power supply can produce
are wasted." Id., 1:62-65. Thus, accurate
current sensing affects the accuracy of the droop function
and inaccurate and fixed droop function leads to waste.
Accurate current sensing and droop function also depend on
responsiveness to changes in temperature. Because most
"elements used in current sensing have positive
temperature coefficients," the "resistence of the
circuit increases as the temperature increases."
Id., 1:67-2:2. "This variation results in
erroneous measurements of the current over temperature
variations causing further droop inaccuracies."
explained in the "Background of the Invention," the
global problem the invention was designed to address was
"mismatched power phases" in a multiphase regulator
with specific problems of excessive heat (caused by unequal
current among phases) and processor waste (caused by fixed
and inaccurate droop function) both of which were adversely
affected by variations in temperature. Id.,
1:15-2:7. Given that inaccurate droop function was an
identified problem the invention was designed to address,
Defendant's proposed construction of "droop
outputs" more closely aligns with this purpose.
Plaintiffs' proposed construction offers little over what
existed in the technology at the time of the invention
because a construction in which droop outputs generally
adjust voltage does not resolve the problem created by
inaccurate or fixed droop function.
abstract of the invention further supports my conclusion. The
abstract expressly states that the invention disclosed is a
"circuit for regulating power." Id.,
Abstract at 1. The invention provides "circuits and
methods" for addressing the problems of "current
sensing variations, static droop settings, mismatched power
phase outputs, and temperature variations" in multiphase
power regulators. Id. The "circuits" may
include a "calibration controller that senses and
regulates both a current sensing circuit and the droop in a
power regulator over a range of temperatures thus equalizing
phase outputs." Id. The invention
"includes the schematic organization and implementation
of the circuit, the circuit's calibration, its use, and
implementation." Id. According to the abstract,
the invention is a single circuit which regulates power but
which contains circuits, and methods for addressing the
identified problems with current, droop, power, and
temperature. Id. ("The present invention
provides circuits and methods for current sensing variations,
static droop settings, mismatched phase outputs, and
temperature variations in a multiphase power
regulator."). These circuits "may" include a
calibration controller. That calibration controller is the
only identified component which allows for both "a
current sensing circuit and the droop [function] over a range
of temperatures [in order to] equalize phase outputs."
As depicted in Figure 1, the "circuits" (other than
the CCC) that the invention uses to solve the identified
problems include the error circuit and the current sense
circuit. By its plain language, the abstract discloses that
the calibration controller regulates droop function.
Claim 1 is read in close context with the abstract, the
initial "circuit" referred to in Claim 1's
introductory paragraph ("What is claimed is:
1. A circuit . . . ." '944 Patent,
10:1-2) aligns with the comprehensive circuit the abstract
states is a "circuit for regulating power." In
Claim 1, this comprehensive circuit includes a regulator
circuit and a CCC. Id., 10:2-3. This disclosure
corresponds to the abstract's reference to the invention
providing "circuits." The abstract then states that
these "circuits" may include a calibration
controller. Claim 1 addresses the components and function of
the CCC, the circuit including the calibration controller
noted in the abstract.
abstract indicates that it is the calibration controller, and
no other circuit or component, that controls the
comprehensive circuit's ability to "sense and
regulate both a current sensing circuit and the droop in a
power regulator over a range of temperatures" to
equalize power among multiple phase outputs. Id.
Claim 1, then, must be understood in the context of this
description of the CCC. Accordingly, Claim 1 discloses the
part of the global circuit that controls the very functions
the invention uses to overcome the identified problems. The
CCC's purpose, consistent with the abstract and the
background descriptions, is to address the current and droop
issues which combined to impair the effective operation of
then-existing multiphase power regulators. The CCC's
"droop outputs" must bear a relationship to droop
more arguments need to be addressed. First, reminiscent of
its plain language argument, Plaintiffs note that Claims
26-36 expressly recite the circuitry shown in Figure 1
including the error circuit, droop amplifier, and current
sense circuit. Id., 11:27-12:44. Plaintiffs contend
that Defendant is improperly attempting to import the
limitations of Claim 26 into Claim 1. Because the error
circuit and other circuitry that actually implement the droop
function are shown only in these ...